The Use of X-Rays in Dentistry

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Matthew Johnston

The use of X-Rays in Modern Dentistry
Dentistry is increasingly becoming a major part of people lives in today’s society, being taken for granted and often little thought about. As technologies advance treatment becomes cheaper, quicker, and the outcome becomes more aesthetically pleasing and longer lasting. As braces, dentures, crowns, procedures and techniques change and improve at an alarming rate, one aspect has remained the same for a longer period of time. This is the use of X-Rays. X-Rays have been used in dentistry since the mid 1900’s, and continue to be used in the same way today. They are an effective way of finding and identifying various oral problems, allowing for early prognosis and prevention of more serious issues. How is an x-ray produced?

Diagram showing a Dental x-ray tube.
In a dental (and most other uses of x-rays including all medical uses) x-ray tube, x-rays are formed as electrons from a hot wire filament are accelerated onto a target anode. A high-voltage unit is used to set the anode at a large positive potential compared to the negatively charged filament. The electrons are pulled onto the anode at very high speeds and are suddenly decelerated on impact. As this impact occurs, some of the kinetic energy is converted into electromagnetic energy, as x-rays. This means that the anode therefore emits x-rays as a result of being smashed with high-energy electrons. The x-rays spread out from the focal spot, through the tube window and onto the region to be examined. How is an image formed?

X-ray films that are used in dental radiography consist on an emulsion/gelatine mix containing chemicals that are sensitive to x-ray radiation. This is a silver halide - either bromide or chloride. The emulsion/gelatine mix and their suspension is set onto a flexible, transparent tinted blue base. Emulsion is used in all types of analogue photography, but the type used in x-ray photography is of a different kind to that used in...
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